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With the European Champions finally getting to play the "Champions of Europe", this was a game that everyone was looking forward to. And despite the result, I don't think we can have too many complaints or worries about the outcome.
For me, the most worrying aspect of the game was the line-up that DOL "chose" i.e. had forced on him by injuries, suspension etc.. With Jon Woodgate making a return from injury after a late fitness test and Lucas still looking like he's not 100%, the decision to play them both and switch Danny Mills back to his original position of right back must be questioned somewhat - if only for the fact that this moved Gary Kelly up to the right side of midfield where he was totally ineffectual and at times an out and out danger to us as he lost the ball and left gaps in the formation. Leeds have always looked more comfortable playing 4-4-2, but maybe last night it would have been more effective playing with Mills and Woody as centrebacks with Lucas sweeping and a 3-man midfield of Bowyer, Burns and Matteo. Ifs and buts....
Madrid dominated the early exchanges, but the best early chance fell to Jon Woodgate, but his shot rebounded off the post and somehow evaded all the Leeds bodies in the area as it was cleared to safety. The world's most expensive player looked to be having the world's most expensive sulk. After a blatant dive, Figo went into the ref's book, and he then really took his bat home and was lucky not to pick up a second yellow for another dive and for twice kicking the ball away and delaying Leeds free kicks. With Roberto Carlos' much vaunted free kicks proving more dangerous to Row M than the goal, and Flavio Conceicao on the bench, as the first half wore on the balance of play switched back to Leeds and Real's lack of a cutting edge had started to give us hope.
Steve McManaman has improved out of all recognition from the half-involved winger we knew from his Liverpool days. Quite why he's not an automatic choice for England is beyond me, and his performance last night was quite outstanding. Roaming around the middle of the park and supported by intelligent running by his team-mates, it took the best efforts of Lee Bowyer and Jacob Burns to close down the space and keep Leeds in with a shout.
No complaints about the ref today - a bit picky in booking Bowyer whose boot gently connected with a Spanish knee (no play-acting from the recipient of what was quite a gentle tap thankfully), but he was pretty fair and even-handed, trying to let the game flow.
Just on the hour mark, DOL decided to change it round a bit, with Jacob Burns replaced by Jason Wilcox. We half-expected Wilcox to trip over his boot laces as he took the field and break his leg, but he survived and started to take up good positions in the open spaces down the left. Unfortunately, the departure of Burns meant that Lee Bowyer, with a bit of assistance from Matteo, was now our only occupant of the middle third, and the tenuous link that had existed between Smith and Viduka and the rest of the team more or less vanished. Robinson had once again shown himself to be no respecter of reputations, saving well from Raul and Figo as Madrid started to open up the defence, but it was a real sickener to see us concede a goal from a simple corner, Hierro getting the better of Woodgate and what looked like a slight deflection doing the rest.
Two minutes later and it was all over bar the shouting (of which there was quite a bit - the crowd for once getting behind the team at home rather than muttering and mumbling when we're behind). One of the best moves of the game saw the ball spring from Madrid's defence to a slightly offside Raul just outside the Leeds box. Raul ignored the absence of the flag and slotted the ball past Robbo to wrap the game up with 20-odd minutes to go. Whenever we attacked, there would be Smith and Viduka receiving the ball, but captured in a sandwich with three Madrid players closer to the goal and three between the Leeds strikers and the midfield support. Madrid gave us a classic exhibition of how to play away from home - defend solidly and in depth and break quickly and often. We could never fully commit to our attacks for fear of leaving too big a gap for them to exploit.
There's an obvious gulf in class between the two sides - but if we were allowed to be £150 million in debt, I'm sure we could build up such a great side. If we sign a few £18 million players who want £2.5 million a year, I'm sure we'll be able to compete on that front very soon....
I can echo most of what people said. I don't think anyone can argue with our spirit and commitment, but at the end of the day, it's not going to pull us through everytime against class sides like Madrid. Their passing and ability to find a team-mates shirt was a revelation and whilst Verner accurately pointed out, Barcelona did appear more threatening going forward, for me Real were solid all over the part and not dodgy at the back (which you can accuse barca of).
If anything it showed that in these kind of games, we certainly cannot afford to be lightweight in any part of the team and yesterday the makeshift midfield was way too light.
Even the baltie pie failed to inspire a victory (yes, I did have one) it's just unfortunate it was playing left-back.
The atmosphere was great in parts too, but a quietness did descend for a while when I think everyone knew that we were never going to get a result, but fair play to the team who battled on. I look forward to the games in early 2001 when we might have a full strength team out there... and Lazio losing makes it interesting, especially if we can get a point out in Rome - although it makes you wonder about Anderlecht since most people I had talked to suggested it was '6 points' already in the bag... lots of footy to go yet...
Best chant, Gary Kelly Fan Club Senior "Mcmananman, you're english!" (I shouted "what kind of f***ing abuse is that?") [Verner later informed me of the meaning of the abuse in his eyes]
When you play the best team in Europe, or possibly the world, then its difficult to criticise our team for eventually being outclassed by them.
The difference between the teams in my opinion were that their midfield could all control the ball, all run with it, all tackle, all track back, all break quickly, all make space.
We had Bowyer as our only recognised midfielder. We were simply not good enough. No amount of tactics or motivation can bridge that sort of gap.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 23/11/2000.
Leeds United entered the real world here last night. Or rather they experienced the educated, artistic world of Real Madrid, the European Cup holders, who scored twice in as many minutes, through Fernando Hierro and Raul, midway through the second half to deal a severe initial blow to the chances of David O'Leary's side reaching the knockout stage.
In the opening round Leeds had survived the frying pan, now, in the second phase, they had to live with the fire. To come through a group containing Barcelona and Milan was admirable, to reach the quarter-finals by way of Real Madrid and Lazio would be phenominal.
Yet the presence of Real at Elland Road last night did not demand the impossible of O'Leary's side or even the merely miraculuous. Leeds had simply to remember the pattern and discipline of their performances against Milan (twice) and Barcelona at home to give themselves a reasonable chance of winning the game - or at least not losing it.
Copy from The Independent of 23/11/2000.
Real Madrid may have been wearing unfamiliar black, and Leeds United their purloined white, but it was easy to recognise the true heirs to Di Stefano, Puskas and company last night. Decades after Don Revie paid Real homage by copying their colours, the Spaniards showed Elland Road that they remain worthy of imitation.
The Champions' League holders and favourites held off a bright start by the young braves of David O'Leary to inflict the first home defeat in a dozen European matches under his management. It was also Leeds' first home defeat to Spanish opposition. At least they did not appear to suffer any new injuries.
With Arsenal losing heavily to Spartak Moscow inRussia, and the Lazio side of the England coach-elect Sven Goran Eriksson going down in Belgium to Anderlecht, it was a grim night for English football. The only consolation was the performance of Steve McManaman who, as in Paris when Real lifted the European Cup last May, wasat the heart of their regaldisplay.
Madrid's goals came in a two-minute burst soon after the hour from FernandoHierro and Raul. Given the result in Brussels, they now seem assured of a place in the quarter-finals even at this early stage.
However, Lazio's loss means Group D's second qualifying spot is wide open and, if Leeds can take something from their visit to Rome in 13 days' time, they could yet go into the winter break with optimism. After it they will have several injured players back, notably Harry Kewell, and Rio Ferdinand, if he signs, will be eligible.
Leeds' diehards will recall the sixth minute, when Jon Woodgate hit the post, and wonder, but the way Elland Road applauded off the Spanish giants showed most of them appreciated the gulf in class.
The team-sheets also indicated the discrepancy in quality. While Leeds were reduced to the now-customary mix of stalwarts, reserves and rookies, Real fielded seven of the players involved in last year's final, with a further four on the bench. Leeds' bench, meanwhile, featured players who would not be recognised in Roundhay Park.
Not that Leeds were overawed by the disparity. Having taken seven points out of nine in their first-stage home games against Milan, Besiktas and Barcelona, they did not lack confidence. And, having won just two points away, they were well aware that they needed to utilise their home advantage.
But for the woodwork, they might have. Early pressure brought a brace of free-kicks after rash challenges by Roberto Carlos and from the second it seemed Lee Bowyer had added Iker Casillas to his list of bewitched goalkeepers. Casillas came for, but failed to gather, a deep free-kick but, unlike Dida, of Milan, and Richard Dutruel, of Barcelona, he escaped punishment. Woodgate drove the loose ball against the post and Gary Kelly could only divert the rebound wide.
Figo was then booked for diving as he fell theatrically in the box under Woodgate's challenge. Twenty minutes later he should have been cautioned again, and thus dismissed, for a similar offence when Lucas Radebe tackled him.
In between Woodgate was booked for fouling the Portuguese striker. Bowyer, Guti and Hierro were also cautioned, but Woodgate, despite a couple of bad fouls, managed to avoid further censure.
Real's superior quality, especially in midfield where McManaman and Ivan Helguera were the springboard for one flowing attack after another, gradually began to show but Leeds' discipline and effort meant they were never allowed to rest easy.
McManaman and Figo shot over, and Raul brought a diving save from Paul Robinson, but it was not until the 33rd minute that Real really carved Leeds open. After Roberto Carlos played the ball into the box Guti dummied it, then exchanged passes with Raul, whose shot clipped the outside of the post.
Leeds responded immediately, but Dominic Matteo, meeting Bowyer's far-post cross, headed too close to Casillas.
It was their last chance as Real took control. Robinson, the hero of their campaign to date, denied Raul, Guti and Figo as his defence struggled to cope with a series of sweeping attacks. A goal seemed inevitable, but the manner in which it arrived was unexpected.
Figo had just been denied when he played a neat short-corner routine with Raul before crossing to the far post. There Hierro rose above two defenders to send a towering header down and past Robinson.
Though the Kop instantly roared defiance, their heroes let their guard drop. Real took swift advantage, McManaman and Guti setting up Raul who, given the benefit of a marginal offside call, scored with aplomb.
Real played out time with practised ease. With a long journey ahead today they head for Tokyo via Frankfurt to play Boca Juniors in Tuesday's World Club Championship they were not going over-exert themselves.
Victory was secured and the knowledge that they had succeeded where Barcelona had failed made it all the sweeter.
Copy from SportLive of 23/11/2000.
SportLive is no longer operational. Should it return to the web, this report will be removed and the link restored.
For the first time in their Champions League campaign since the opening match when they were humbled in Barcelona, Leeds were outclassed on Wednesday night.
There was no questioning the commitment of David O'Leary's team but at the crucial moments they lacked the quality of European Cup holders Real Madrid.
Leeds might well reflect on two fine opportunities which were wasted in the first half, but those were rare occasions of menace and eventually Madrid's persistence underpinned by the inspiration of the world's most expensive footballer, £45million Luis Figo, wore them down.
It was Figo who set up Fernando Hierro's opening goal in the 68th minute, then two minute later Raul rounded off a marvellous move.
Leeds might have moved into the big time by reaching this stage and being prepared to pay £18m for Rio Ferdinand, but on this evidence there is still a gap to be closed if they are to thrive consistently in the company of a club of Real's stature.
Forty years ago Don Revie decided Leeds should ditch their traditional strip of blue and gold in favour of all white. It was a move designed to help create the feeling that Leeds could become the Real Madrid of England.
At the time, the early Sixties, Madrid had virtually made the European Cup their own possession while Leeds were just beginning their rise from Second Division obscurity to one of the dominant powers in the English game.
Whether the change of kit actually made any difference is debatable but it certainly helped the club create a new identity. Not always for the better. While the quality and limited success of the Revie era cannot be denied, his teams earned a reputation for being the most despised in the land.
Not any more. Quite apart from reviving the fortunes of Leeds, O'Leary has managed to nurture a positive image for the club.
Particularly after the heroic endeavours of his young side in emerging from the first phase of the competition ahead of Barcelona, Leeds have even managed to win friends outside of their Yorkshire bastion.
Even with an inexperienced squad which has been depleted with injuries this season, the quality of football they have achieved at this level has been admirable.
The arrival of the reigning champions though represented a massive test of the true credentials of this Leeds side who in their previous 11 European games at Elland Road under O'Leary had not been beaten.
This was the first time Leeds had met the team Revie so revered and apart from that aberration in the Nou Camp O'Leary's players have displayed a commendable capacity not to be overawed despite the reputation of the opposition.
And after an early escape when Guti hit a snap shot over the bar, Leeds ought to have established early control.
In the seventh minute Roberto Carlos brought down Gary Kelly midway inside the Real half. Lee Bowyer hoisted the ball into the box and goalkeeper Iker Casillas lost the ball which bounced straight to the feet of Jonathan Woodgate eight yards out.
More with instinct than intent, Woodgate drove the ball straight back with Casillas stranded, but the ball bounced back off the post. The rebound came back too quickly for Kelly to place his header and the ball bounced away.
A chance missed but it was an encouraging start especially when a few minutes later Figo was booked for diving in the box after Woodgate had won the ball cleanly. A few minutes later though Woodgate was similarly punished when he was guilty of upending Figo.
England's Steve McManaman, back in favour at Madrid, also looked threatening. Not least in the 22nd minute when he rolled the ball in behind the Leeds defence for Raul to run on to.
Raul took the ball in his stride then drove a left-foot shot towards the far corner, but Paul Robinson was down well to tip the ball round his left-hand post.
Two minutes later Leeds were fortunate when Raul failed to capitalise on a wayward header by Lucas Radebe. But the Leeds captain quickly redeemed himself when he executed a brilliantly timed tackle to dispossess Figo as he raced into the box.
While Leeds were not exactly under the cosh they found it hard to impose themselves and make inroads into the final third. Madrid on the other hand possessed the fluidity to create chances and in the 34th minute Guti hit the outside of a post with his left-foot shot. Gradually Madrid's class and confidence started to shine through, but in the 37th minute Leeds again had a great chance to take the lead.
Madrid defender Ivan Campo was under no pressure near his right corner flag but his poor clearance went straight to Bowyer. He crossed instantly, Dominic Matteo met the ball at the far post six yards out, but he directed his header straight at Casillas who beat the effort away.
The momentum remained with Madrid, however, and in the 48th minute McManaman decided the time was right to go on the outside of wing-back Kelly. He did so with some ease and delivered a damaging low cross from the byline. It should have set up Raul for a simple roll in but he shot wide.
Five minutes later Raul pounced on a defensive mistake and dispatched a chip from the edge of the area, but it did not have the trajectory to beat Robinson who gathered easily.
In an attempt to give Leeds more attacking options O'Leary sent on Jason Wilcox, back for the first time after breaking his ankle, in place of Jimmy Burns.
But it was Figo who did his best to open things up in the 63rd minute when he went on a brilliant run beating four defenders, but none of his colleagues reacted to his teasing pass across the six yard box.
Three minutes later, after Figo had just seen a low shot well saved, Hierro did the Portuguese player's service justice when he rose to meet a right-wing cross with a powerful header from 10 yards.
Then in the 68th minute Madrid pieced together a glorious break which resulted in a decisive second.
McManaman powered down the left, fed the ball to Guti who quickly rolled it on to Raul. There might have been a hint of offside but Raul did not hesitate and swept the ball clinically beyond Robinson.
The trip to Rome in a fortnight now looks even tougher for Leeds than when the draw was made.
Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 23/11/2000.
THE European champions left an indelible mark on Elland Road, their rich tradition evident in an unswerving self-belief and a shimmering class that were joys to behold.
Revelling in the two thirds of possession that they commanded throughout the 90 minutes, they left United with something to aspire to as they continue through their evolutionary process.
Outclassed, yes, on this occasion, but United can nevertheless reflect upon a Jonathan Woodgate shot which shook an upright in the very early stages and a Dominic Matteo header which would also have given them the lead but for an instinctive reflex save by Casillas.
Who knows what might have happened if either of those had found the target but Real, inspired by the carefree fetching and carrying of the exemplary Steve McManaman, had fired enough warning shots of their own before they delivered two killer blows inside three minutes midway through the second half.
Up to that point United had manfully traded blows, with their £250,000 midfield man Jacob Burns going shoulder to shoulder with Real's £37m Luis Figo and achieving a degree of success.
Real were first to test the water, but when Woodgate fouled Geremi out on the left Guti was careless with his shot from Figo's free kick, ballooning over the bar.
And Leeds were quick to respond, Bowyer flinging over a seventh-minute cross which confused Casillas and Woodgate finding himself desperately unlucky to hit a post with his close-range blast.
Figo was yellow-carded after just 10 minutes for faking a foul in the penalty area and he was quickly followed by Woodgate for a real foul on the world's most expensive player.
Harte badly misdirected his free header from Bowyer's corner, and McManaman was forced to apologise to full back Roberto Carlos for his greed in shooting over the top from distance instead of bringing him into play.
Mills scythed down the barnstorming Roberto Carlos 22 yards out in the 22nd minute but Figo's dink over the wall was too high.
McManaman's measured pass gave Figo a first time shooting chance which Robinson pushed round for a corner, then Harte won a corner on the left and from Bowyer's cross Woodgate got in a header which caused some consternation before Hierro hoofed clear.
Radebe's sliding tackle denied Figo, Guti overran the ball and Raul's shot rattled a post as United were penned in for an uncomfortably long spell.
But United went desperately close when Bowyer picked out Matteo running in at the far post and his header brought a brilliant save from Casillas.
A show of strength by Burns brought Leeds forward again and this time Matteo's cross was just too high for Kelly to cause any damage. Hierro bundled over Viduka in a dangerous position two minutes before the break, and although Harte's well-struck free kick zipped through the wall Casillas was there to scoop it up.
As the teams trooped off at half time Figo struck up a deep conversation with referee Jol, presumably concerning denied penalties and an unwanted booking. But United were deservedly level at the break and the night's frustrations for Figo were beginning to show.
He should, in fact, have been sent off for diving a second time when Radebe clearly won the ball cleanly at the expense of a corner.
Figo's dialogue continued as they lined up for the second half, then he did the real talking with a quick free kick to Raul, whose attempted chip never looked likely to find the target.
And Raul should really have scored a minute later when a strong run by McManaman set him up, but he got his angles all wrong and was well wide with his shot.
Raul again tried to chip Robinson, but the keeper was well aware of his intentions, and as Real began to struggle for openings Roberto Carlos crashed one his trademark long free kicks dreadfully wide.
Figo waltzed through only to find nobody on the end of his inviting cross, then he tested Robinson with a low shot which he kept out with his legs, the ball spinning for a corner.
It was from the flag kick in the 66th minute that Real stole into the lead, Figo taking the short corner in his stride before crossing for skipper Fernando Hierro to rise above everybody and powerfully nod the ball home.
Two minutes later they had doubled their lead, McManaman showing blinding pace and a great touch to bring in Guti, whose first time flick gave Raul sufficient time and space to slot the ball past Robinson.
Radebe's interception foiled Raul and at the other end substitute Wilcox won a free kick directly in front of goal, but Viduka could make nothing of it.
As former Liverpool teammates McManaman and Matteo swapped shirts at the end one's thoughts concerned how the profiles of these two players were considerably raised on a night that each had been the star player in their respective new camps.
But it was McManaman, very much back in favour at the Bernabeu, who wore the biggest smile. I hope a certain Swedish gentleman was watching.
Adios, Steve. That was enough trouble for one night.